We're not huge party people and in fact, we don't even like beer! But every October, we tap into the German part of my husband's heritage and have an Oktoberfest with Bratwursts & Sauerkraut. The Germans would probably not enjoy our celebration at all because it's pretty low-key! You know, no lederhosen or dancing on tables! But it IS delicious!
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What are the best bratwursts?
Well, hands down, the best I've ever had are found at the historic Wurstkuchl (Sausage Kitchen) in Regensburg, Germany. This restaurant has been grilling brats for 900 years in a building that sits next to the Danube so I think they know a few things. Their sausages are small and skinny (and inexpensive!), served on buns or with sauerkraut and a mustard that is out of this world!
But since we can't run to Regensburg every time we want a brat, we have to figure it out on our own. My kitchen is no where nearly as old as the Wurstkuchl, but I can turn out some pretty good brats!
Most bratwursts I've found in the US are quite large, very unlike the skinny Wurstkuchl's kind. My grocery store makes their own and we find them quite authentic in taste.
I start them in a pot of dark beer and red onions, then keep them warm while I make the sauerkraut.
For this recipe, I don't make my own sauerkraut and in fact, I tend to think of this more as a nod to sauerkraut. I find a really good, organic sauerkraut in glass jars in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and then add to it.
I start with bacon because that's where all good things start, right? Especially German things! Then I add onions and garlic and an apple. The apple brings just a touch of sweetness that balances the sour of the kraut.
When that has cooked a bit, I add the drained sauerkraut. Don't rinse the sauer off of it! Much of it cooks away anyway and I like the hint of the tang. Add in 3-4 ladles of the beer-onion mixture that the brats cooked in as the simmering liquid.
Season it with juniper berries and fresh black pepper and tuck a bay leaf.
Simmer the sauerkraut for about an hour.
Fire up the grill to finish cooking the bratwursts, then lay them on the sauerkraut in the Dutch oven.
How to serve Bratwursts & Sauerkraut
- I like to make creamy mashed potatoes to serve with them. The sauerkraut and potatoes go so well together.
- You should have plenty of rolls, like kaiser rolls since Germen bröchen is hard to come by in the US. My daughter has made sourdough pretzels the last couple of years and they are a big hit!
- And lastly, mustard is a must! Lucky for me, I found the Wurstkuchl mustard online. That, with the grilled sausages almost takes me back to Regensburg. Almost.
Other recipes you might like:
Bratwursts & Sauerkraut
- 8 links bratwurst sausages
- 2 cups julienned red onions
- 3 12-ounce bottles dark beer I like Porter
- 6 ounces chopped bacon
- 2 cups julienned yellow onions
- 1 Tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 large sweet apple like red or golden delicious, pink lady, jonagold
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon juniper berries crushed (I use my marble mortar & pestle.)
- 1 teaspoon black peppercorns crushed
- 2 pounds sauerkraut packed in glass jars, drained
- Salt to season
- mashed potatoes
- assorted mustards
- With a sharp knife or fork, prick each sausage several times. In a large pot, combine the red onions and beer and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Add the bratwursts and poach until almost cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausages from the liquid and set aside, reserving the liquid.
- In a large pot, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. If there's a lot of grease, pour some off.
- Add the yellow onions to the fat in the pan and cook, stirring, until soft, 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Add the apples, the bay leaf, peppercorns, and juniper berries.
- Finally add the drained sauerkraut and 3-4 soup ladles of the reserved beer that the brats cooked in. Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally and adding more reserved beer if needed.
- Preheat the grill. Grill the sausages until cooked through and brown on the outside. Place the grilled sausages on top of the sauerkraut in the pot and serve.
- Serve with mashed potatoes, if desired, plenty of bread or pretzels, and of course, a selection of mustards!